By Chris Stein*
The African Union summit meeting in Kigali will be voting for a new AU commission on Monday, despite rumors of a call for the election to be delayed.
There have been persistent rumors at the summit that the ECOWAS bloc of west African states is unhappy with the choice of candidates offered to succeed outgoing AU commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
There are three candidates, two of them women, former Uganda vice president Specioza Wandira Kazibwe and Botswana Foreign Minister Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, and Equatorial Guinea Foreign Minister Agapito Mba Mokuy.
Late Sunday an AU legal counsel, Vincent O Nmehielle, denied the rumors of a delay.
“Stop speculating. There is no ECOWAS concern that has made an election to be postponed. Elections are going forward tomorrow. No more names are entering the list, while the elections are going on tomorrow. If somehow we are not able to obtain the necessary majority then the rules will kick in and you will be advised as to the outcome,” Nmehielle said.
ECOWAS does not determine whether AU commission elections are held, he added.
AU rules say the winning candidate must obtain two thirds of member states’ votes. Nmehielle explained that if no one wins this majority in the first round, the candidate with least votes will be knocked out and a second round held.
If a two thirds majority is still not obtained, he said, the election will be suspended pending another vote and an interim chairperson appointed.
One journalist questioned the democratic credentials of some of the candidates’ home countries. Nmehielle declined to comment.
“Can you define democracy for me? When you say candidates from undemocratic countries I do not know what you mean. They are members of the African Union. To be a candidate it is open to all members of the African Union,” Nmehielle said.
According to AU rules the commission chairperson and deputy chairperson are elected by heads of states or their representatives at the summit, while the eight commissioners are elected by member states’ foreign ministers.